Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

There is no question that academic careers vary significantly for both men and women, depending on the type of academic institution and the academic position, so the findings from these surveys may or may not be relevant to other academic appointments or institutions. While by no means exhausting the topic, the purpose of this report is to advance the state of knowledge on specific aspects of gender in academic science and engineering, while at the same time recognizing the study’s limitations.

There are many factors that play a significant role in women’s careers in academia that are outside the charge and therefore were excluded in the committee’s deliberations. These include, for example:

  • Constraints of dual careers, particularly in geographic mobility;

  • Access to quality child care;

  • Impact of stopping-the-tenure-clock policies;

  • Preference for part-time academic positions;

  • Perceptions of isolation and lack of collegiality;

  • Expectations regarding professional recognition and career satisfaction;

  • Attrition along the academic career pathway;

  • Disciplinary differences that either foster or impede these factors; and

  • Other quality-of-life issues.

In particular, the report does not explore the impact of children and family life. While these and similar factors are beyond the scope of this study, they are significant in impacting women’s faculty career choices.

Also, incremental changes in the percentages of women with doctoral degrees and in postdoctoral positions do not by themselves result in commensurate changes in the numbers of women faculty in universities, especially at senior levels. Much more needs to be known about the careers of women scientists after and even during graduate school, as well as the many career paths they may follow that may lead them away from academia. This study focuses primarily on key transition points in academic careers that research-intensive institutions can control and influence. Substantial additional research is needed to create a more complete picture of women’s career paths (see suggestions in Chapter 6).

The study reassesses and extends, with newly collected data, results of prior examinations of gender differences in academia to establish the contemporary veracity of those conclusions and to document trends over time. The study moves beyond earlier analyses by focusing more directly on the role of three sets of factors thought to produce gender differences in academic careers: (1) institutional practices and procedures, including the hiring and tenure processes; (2) individual characteristics, such as the role of marriage and family in the academic career paths of men and women; and (3) the overarching, changing nature of the academic profession. Focusing on these factors, the committee reformulated the

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement